‘Seize the moment: unprecedented unity and solidarity for net-zero’ – COP28 president

More renewables, no unabated fossil-fuels, higher energy-efficiency, finance, support to take low-carbon innovations to market, and a determined new push to net-zero … with no more delays! The Chamber Low Carbon/Sustainability (CLCS) programme and COP28 share matching priorities!

Autumn 2023 will hopefully be a success both in Lancashire when the new Chamber Low Carbon/Sustainability (CLCS) programme begins its second half-decade of working very closely with northwest organisations, and Dubai where nations must make key decisions to keep the planet cool.

Meeting of minds

The appointment of Sultan Al Jaber as the COP28 president charged with ensuring the world firstly reviews progress, and secondly re-commits itself to delivering the 2015 Paris climate agreement, has been controversial because he is also CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc).

However, his most recent comments suggest that he is perhaps catching up quickly with principles and goals the Chamber Low Carbon Programme has been putting into practice for the last five years!

This is good news for the CLCS team who will be championing the Northwest low-carbon message in Dubai in December as an official UNFCCC (https://unfccc.int/) Observer Organisation in its own right in the influential COP28 Blue Zone where absolutely crucial international decisions must be taken.

Unity, solidarity and speed

In an updating of his agenda in August, Jaber admitted that he never expected COP28 to be easy, but stressed that the later the world acts, the harder and more expensive it will be to decarbonise global economies and rely on green innovations to create future jobs and prosperity.

Global low carbon audit

As part of the world’s first Global Stocktake this autumn, countries and other stakeholders will be asked to review the progress they are making collectively in meeting Paris Climate Change Agreement goals (https://unfccc.int/topics/global-stocktake/about-the-global-stocktake/why-the-global-stocktake-is-a-critical-moment-for-climate-action).

“We hardly need a report to tell us we’re way off tracks”, the president said recently, adding he is optimistic that, “… together, we can still seize the moment and keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.50C within reach, if we act with unprecedented unity and solidarity.”

Phasing up renewables

The first priority, he says, is a swift, just and orderly transition of the world’s energy system through a rapid phase-up of renewables and end to all unabated fossil fuels. By 2030, global renewable capacity must triple to 11,000 GW – eight times larger than the current total US generating capacity.

Importantly, oil and gas companies will be expected to align around the net-zero emissions target by 2050, and emit no methane by 2030.

Not what we wanted to hear

More controversially, Jaber commented that, “The phasing down of fossil fuels is inevitable, essential and it must be responsible.” Many countries are adamant that ‘ending’ not ‘phasing down’ is essential to achieve net-zero by 2050.

However, the president also wants low-carbon hydrogen production to double as a crucial fuel for decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors such as cement, steel, and aluminium.

Paying the climate-finance piper

His second priority is upgrading the world’s climate-finance architecture to unlock public and private capital for the transition; the developing world needs trillions of investment dollars annually, he says. That means restoring trust in the multilateral system between nations.

He is confident that private capital at scale can be directed to the developing world through new innovative financing solutions; this includes making good on historic $100 billion financing commitments this year to developing countries, with continued finance flowing thereafter.

– Re-thinking food

Thirdly, he says, the world must reform how nutrition is produced and consumed. The plant-to-plate food system generates a third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Switching to farming that works with nature, stores carbon, regenerates soil, and provides enough for all of us to eat, is vital.

– By every means

Using every available tool means: – cutting red tape from rooftop solar, floating wind-farms and other sustainable sources; making power grids smarter, interconnected and flexible; using base-load nuclear power; creating high-quality voluntary carbon markets; and promoting organic fertiliser use.

“Such enormous steps will push the limits of what is physically, financially, and politically feasible,” the president concludes. “Yet with the collective will of governments, the private sector, and each and every one of us, we can make it happen.”

Parallel low carbon journey

Moving towards autumn, CLCS will put its own principles into action through the new super-sized low-carbon hub at Red Rose Court near Accrington.

This is now open to provide integrated advice, consultancy, advanced commercial support – and the minimum-carbon solutions urgently needed by international markets – under one convenient roof.

Central to CLCS’s next half decade will be a proactive partnership the with the RedCAT project (https://www.red-cat.uk/) to close the gap between innovation and successful commercialisation.

As a result, the CLCS team is ready to help anyone who wants to cut their carbon footprint, work more efficiently, prototype innovations, or take new technologies to growing markets. Supporting biodiversity, nature recovery and agriculture are also priorities. The hub provides ‘hot desk’ co-working opportunities for the cross-fertilisation and optimisation of ideas. Come and talk to us!

New threats – transition risk

Meanwhile, there is a new warning that the world’s green energy transition could be at risk from rising interest rates which make some projects, like new offshore wind farms, unaffordable. Estimates suggest that Europe now needs an extra €163 billion to reach net-zero by 2050.

Unusually interest rates in the last 15 years have meant accessible finance for green energy projects. A swift fall in the cost of green energy technologies – a pattern seen before in sectors like solar power – have also helped. As a result, some governments have wound down subsidies.

However, many central banks are pushing up rates to damp down inflation. UK interest rates have risen from just 0.1% in December 2021 to 5% in July 2023.

Interestingly, The Times reports that “BP is considering building two huge offshore wind farms in British waters without government subsidy contracts in what would be a first for the sector”. Construction of the Morgan and Mona projects in the Irish Sea could start as soon as ‘late next year’ with no new government contracts to guarantee their revenues.

– Heatwaves threaten world food security

Researchers also warn that heatwaves threaten nature’s ability to provide us with food, with a parallel ‘silent dying’ in the oceans.

Even though the food system is global, there are increasing risks of simultaneous crop losses across the world that could impact food availability and prices. Many humans can switch on their air conditioning; natural and farmed ecosystems do not have that option!

Statistics show that the 2018 heatwave led to yield losses of up to 50% in central and northern Europe. In 2022, record UK temperatures killed fruit and vegetable crops. Heatwaves could be 12 times for frequent by 2040.

– ‘Flawed’ climate models putting pensions at risk

Financial institutions, central banks, and governments are underestimating the economic impacts of the climate crisis because they ignore climate tipping points.

Carbon Tracker says the wrong data is being used by ‘self-referential’ climate economists to create investment forecasts that could affect the retirement savings of millions of people (https://carbontracker.org/millions-of-pensions-at-risk-because-investment-consultants-overlook-threat-of-climate-tipping-points/).

Research shows that many funds ignore critical scientific evidence and use models which predict that global warming of 20C to 4.30C will have minimal impact on GDP and portfolios; some suggest that even a 50C to 70C rise would see economic growth continue. The think-tank says this is not true.

New innovations – better batteries

Toyota says it can make solid-state batteries with a range of 745 miles that charge in 10 minutes. It adds that the breakthrough will allow batteries to be halved in weight, size and cost. The lower weight could reduce the brake-pad, tyre, and road surface wear associated with heavier vehicles.

The world’s second largest carmaker plans to sell cars with advanced solid-state batteries by 2025 with significant improvements over current liquid-based batteries. It says is has simplified the production of materials used in manufacture.

– Solar cell efficiency leaps

Solar power cells have raced past a key 30% energy-efficiency milestone following breakthroughs by research groups around the world. This could accelerate the rollout of solar power.

Current solar panels using silicon-based cells are near their maximum conversion of sunlight into electricity – 29%. A layer of perovskite – another semiconductor – is now being added over the silicon layer. Perovskite captures blue light; silicon captures red. More light energy is captured overall.

A further bonus is that this will make the cost of solar electricity will be even cheaper. If scaling-up production goes smoothly, ‘tandem cells’ could be commercially available in five years – just as silicon-only cells reach their maximum efficiency.

The current efficiency record for silicon-only panels is 24.5% in commercial cells and 27% in the laboratory – which may the closest possible to the theoretical maximum of 29%. One research group has published silicon-perovskite efficiencies of 32.5%; another says it has reached 33.7%.

– UK home energy upgrades – a £135 billion economic boost

A new Building Research Establishment (BRE) report says improving England’s poorest housing could create £135.5 billion in societal benefits in the next 30 years, including lower carbon emissions. (https://bregroup.com/news/poor-housing-will-cost-over-135-5bn-over-the-next-30-years-without-urgent-action/). There is also a call for all homes to meet a minimum of EPC C rating by 2035.

BRE says improving homes that are below the minimum standard needed for Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C could save 97 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over 30 years.

Meanwhile, the latest English Housing Survey data has identified circa 65,000 damp and mouldy homes which are Category 1 health and safety (HHSRS) hazards and may need remedial work costing some £250 million (https://www.rics.org/news-insights/english-housing-survey-2023).

Improving the state of bad Category 1 homes could save an average of 264,420 tonnes in emissions annually, the report says; it adds that circa 2.4 million homes in England – 10% of the housing stock – are below the minimum habitability standards.

Something strange in the Pacific

Parts of the eastern Pacific Ocean stretching thousands of kilometres west from Ecuador have been cooling for 30 years, and creating a “cold tongue” which if it continues could reduce global warming by 30% but cause mega-droughts in the US.

The reasons are puzzling scientists who are concerned that it could suddenly flip over into warming instead (https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25934500-100-something-strange-is-happening-in-the-pacific-and-we-must-find-out-why/?utm_source=nsday&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nsday_020823&utm_term=Newsletter%20NSDAY_Daily).

What happens next could determine whether California faces permanent drought, Australia experiences ever-deadlier wildfires, the intensity of Indian monsoon seasons, the chances of famine in the Horn of Africa, and even tweak how sensitive the Earth’s atmosphere is to rising emissions.

The Pacific is the Earth’s deepest ocean with a surface larger than all land areas combined.